Concerts are often a place where musicians and organizations try to raise political awareness. But are crowds tuned in? Are they listening when artists call on them to take action? Do they generally agree on hot button issues, or are they as divided as the rest of the country?
HeadCount, a non-partisan organization that does voter registration at concerts, got to the bottom of these and other questions by conducting a poll called the “Fan DNA Project”, asking over 10,000 fans their views on music, politics and the state of America.
The results can be found at: http://fandnaproject.headcount.org/
The project revealed some interesting variations:
* Indie rock fans were a bit more politically tuned in than fans of electronic music or “jam bands”, being more likely to choose a political party and follow certain issues.
* Fans of Maroon 5, O.A.R., and John Mayer were the most likely to be Republicans. Indie rock bands like The Decemberists and The National had the highest concentration of Democrats, while jam bands like The Disco Biscuits and Sound Tribe Sector 9 had the most Libertarians.
* Democrats were more likely than Republicans to attend more than 10 concerts per year (36% vs. 26%), but Libertarians trumped them both, with 43% hitting a double-digit number of live music events each year.
* Views about Wall Street differed greatly by musical taste. More than half of Ani DiFranco’s fans called Wall Street and Corporate America the nation’s “Worst Villains.” Meanwhile, less than 40% of Dave Matthews Band or Jack Johnson fans said the same thing, and less than a third of Maroon 5’s fans.
* About 80 percent of fans remember hearing about a social or political issue at a concert, more than 3 times the number that have hooked up!
The Fan DNA Project – which included both in-person and online polling – also revealed how the fan bases of different bands overlap. That information was used to create a unique set of venn diagrams showing the relationship between different bands’ followings.
Political Differences and Similarities
The results pointed to some surprising common ground between Republicans and Democrats attending concerts. Among those who self-identify as Republicans, 39 percent said “investing in education and the future” should be the government’s top priority, and another 19 percent picked “fighting for equality and the disadvantaged.” Both were more popular among Republicans than traditional GOP issues like “Cutting taxes” (9%) or “Reducing the size of government” (17%). Overall 44% said “investing in education and the future” should be America’s highest priority, the most popular choice among five possible answers.
As for the overall state of America, 71% said “It’s messed up and we better do something about it.” See chart below.
Meanwhile, 57% of all respondents – including 55% of Libertarians and half of Republicans – said they are usually inspired to take action when a musician speaks about a social issue from stage.
“What we observed is that there are some basic shared values out there, and they totally trump partisan politics and run across all musical tastes,” said HeadCount’s executive director Andy Bernstein. “But we also saw that the younger the fans are, the less hardened they are in their political views. About half haven’t aligned with a political party, and they’re a bit more likely to say things in this country aren’t so bad.”
The poll did reveal two polarizing subjects for Republicans and Democrats – Wall Street and President Obama himself. Asked “Who are the worst villains in America?” Democrats chose “Wall Street and Corporate America” 44% of the time. Only 15% of Republicans chose the same answer. Three other answers – “Tax and spend liberals,” “Biased media,” and “All politicians, regardless of party”, were chosen more often by Republicans.
When asked, “What would you like to see President Obama do more?” 49% of Democrats chose “Fight harder for what he believes in.” Only 2% of Republicans chose that answer, with 29% picking “Cut taxes and shrink government,” and 54% picking “Lose the next election and go away.” Notably, “Focus on the economy” was chosen by about 20% of Democrats, Independents and unaffiliated, but only around 10% of Republicans or Libertarians chose that answer.
“A key idea behind this project is that before anyone asks for your vote, they should ask what you think,” said Bernstein. “By understanding our own community better, we’ll hopefully get a conversation started that lasts through the 2012 election and beyond.”